A lot of pregnant moms ask me about pelvic floor and Kegel exercises during pregnancy. “Do I really have to do them?” “How do I do pelvic floor exercises properly?” “Is it possible to do too many Kegels and make your pelvic floor too strong?” Here to answer all of your Kegel questions is Celeste Goodson, a Pre and Post-Natal trainer and ACE Medical Exercise Specialist. Celeste is also the founder of ReCORE Fitness, a Kopa® Partner that specializes in helping women redevelop their core muscles after birth.
Q. Should I do Kegel exercises during pregnancy?
When doing typical weight-lifting exercises, it’s best for the pelvic floor to lift up (contract) when we breath out and flex, or exert force. This protects the pelvic floor during strenuous activity. The pelvic floor should then be able to relax when we breathe in AFTER flexing or exerting force. However, our bodies do not always work like we want them to and the Inner Core System can become dysfunctional with bad habits or prolonged inactivity. Then comes pregnancy.
During pregnancy, the pelvic floor has to sustain a little more pressure due to the weight of the baby. If there is a previous lack of coordination, inactivity, or muscle tightness, these problems compound during pregnancy and after birth and the pelvic floor can become weak. To combat this, pregnant women would should do specific inner core reconditioning exercises. This can include Kegel exercises during pregnancy or learning basic Ab Sets, which I’ll describe below.
Q. How should I do pelvic floor or Kegel exercises during pregnancy?
The Inner Core System is comprised of the transverse abs, pelvic floor and multifidus muscles. If you’re having a hard time contracting/relaxing your core muscles as a whole, it’s important to first isolate the pelvic floor muscles. Eventually with practice, pelvic floor exercises can be coordinated with breathing and engaging the rest of the inner core muscles. When women get this coordination down, it is used with all functional movements (squating, lifting and other exercises). Once this becomes a habit, women don’t need to focus as much on doing Kegels separately since the pelvic floor muscles are working with the Inner Core System like they should with typical daily exercises.
I suggest that women strengthen their pelvic floor and inner core muscles by practicing basic Ab Sets. Watch this instructional video about how to do Ab Sets. The basic premise is that you breath in and relax the belly with air. As you breathe out, you contract the core muscles in and lift the pelvic floor upwards. Ab Sets are an easy, safe, and gentle way to strengthen the pelvic floor AND core muscles, making them even better than Kegel exercises during pregnancy.
Q. Is it true that pelvic floor muscles can be too strong and you won’t be able to push baby out well? Can I do too many Kegel exercises during pregnancy?
While the pelvic floor won’t develop like a bicep muscle, it can still increase or loose strength. The question should be…Can pelvic floor muscles be too tight? Yes! We do not want tight pelvic floor muscles. Ideally muscle should be both strong and flexible. A strong muscle does not have to be tight, so it is important to note the difference. Keeping the pelvic floor strong and flexible is KEY during pregnancy.
During pregnancy, it is important for moms to learn 2 things to have the best pushing experience possible:
- How to engage the transverse abs while keeping the pelvic floor relaxed (helpful for labor and pushing)
- How to engage the transverse abs while lifting the pelvic floor up (important for safe lifting techniques and strengthening the pelvic floor)
As you practice AbSets regularly, you will improve your ability to isolate your different core muscles.
Yes, birth is natural and uterine contractions will come. However, training the core muscles combined with proper breathing will make pushing that much more effective. This will reduce the strain on the pelvic floor and set you up for a better recovery.
Celeste Goodson, ACE Medical Exercise Specialist has worked in health and fitness settings for over 15 years; including physical therapy clinics and cardiac rehab, aquatic and fitness facilities. She designed and developed the ReCORE program and FITsplint for pregnant and postnatal women. She has worked exclusively with pre and post natal women the last 6 years; from professional singers, moms of multiples, to elite athletes.
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